Homebase outlines retail changes

Homebase Nobilia Kitchens

Homebase has unveiled its new concept store that reflects the shifting of the company’s emphasis from DIY to home interiors.

Highlighting the new revamped Ruislip store, managing director Paul Loft (pictured) said that Homebase, owned by the Home Retail Group, was “on a journey to get from being among the pack of DIY sheds to a place where we’re a business that straddles DIY and home furnishing”.

The thrust of this strategy is to reposition the brand firmly in a central position away from what it sees as the commoditised DIY retailers of B&Q and Wickes and more towards the “design, inspirational and emotional” brands of John Lewis, Ikea or Laura Ashley.

The emphasis, Loft said, will now be on the portion of Homebase’s customers that are ‘home enhancers’ rather than ‘DIY enthusiasts’ by creating appropriate store environments.

The Ruislip store contains the first full Habitat concession, following Home Retail Group’s purchase of the company in summer 2011, as well as a Laura Ashley concession and ‘Decorating Centre’.

“Early feedback from customers is that they love the changes we have made,” Loft said. “At our prototype store in Aylesford, we saw a sales uplift of 20% on a two-year basis and we have invested in smaller refits on mezzanine levels and garden centres in a number of stores, which are also doing well.”

The Ruislip store has its kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and furniture offering on a dedicated mezzanine level with its Essential, Homebase, Schreiber and Odina kitchen offers.

The Essential range of entry level flat pack kitchens was introduced in 2012 following B&Qs heavy advertising around the kitchen-compare.com website.

Loft also said that, despite the new strategy, the discounting sales model indicative of the multiple market, would continue.

“We’re finding that [brands] like Schreiber and Odina allow you to sail past that to a certain extent because you’re in a differentiated position at the upper end of this market,” he said. “The lower end is like that in the UK and it’s hard to row your boat against the stream at this stage.”

Kitchens Kitchens own Jeff Russell thinks that the UK kitchen market is essentially polarised at present with people looking to improve their home and create a bettaliving space, where “design” and “ergonomics”, “brands” and “bespoke” are the key words in one half, and at the other end, flat-packs and DIY/Supply only retailers are the consumer focus and the key words are “cheap”, “cheap”, ”cheap”, and “cheaper” and never the twain shall meet.

The invasion of the German Kitchens of Nobilia, Hacker and Schuller and the Italian kitchens of Minotti and Miton in the UK in recent years are testament to consumer sentiment that just as for Jaguar Landrover re sales of the new Range Rover Evoque which have resulted in bumper profits for JLR during a recession when other lesser brands are struggling is that no matter what the economic climate, the term recession is very subjective as there are always some winner and losers no matter what the weather.”